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Simulating War Is Much Cheaper Than Actually Waging It

Modeling and simulation: Realistic simulators train people faster and more cheaply than using real-world equipment, while accurate 3D modeling helps city planners.

The news is full of stories about the cost of war, both in lives and military budgets, but few realize full-on combat training can be costly, too. Very little of a soldier’s time is spent overseas raining fire down upon the enemy. Most of his career is spent training for such missions, often without any real expectation of actually performing them.

war simulation

Bullets and bombs aren’t free, nor is the gas to power ships and aircraft, the maintenance to ensure they work when needed, or the temporary duty pay owed to service members when they’re away from home. It takes $2.6 million to train a fighter pilot for combat and much of that is due to the real airplane he needs to fly in. Same for a tank driver, naval gunner, or submarine sonar operator — reading a how-to book isn’t enough.

Pilots have long used aircraft simulators to reduce the cost of training, but that technology has slowly been making its way into all facets of military qualification programs as a way to not only save money, but also allow multiple units to integrate in a comprehensive battle scenario not previously possible outside of wartime.

The Nintendo soldier

The military contracts with several companies to provide simulated mission support, among them an Alabama company called AEgis Technologies. Accurate modeling is vital to providing a realistic training environment, and AEgis has been leading the way in simulation technology development since 1989.

One of their latest and more interesting efforts is a game called Combat ID. Fratricide on the battlefield is an age-old problem still adding to the fog of war today. AEgis worked with the military to determine which combat vehicles their soldiers were most likely to encounter and developed a program to teach them how to identify the various vehicle profiles quickly and accurately in the heat of battle.

Combat ID is a high-graphics game designed to train multiple soldiers more cheaply than conventional methods. The soldier learns 30 vehicle profiles in the training module before playing the scored part of the game, where the soldier must determine friend from foe during a simulated wartime mission. Feedback is immediate and the game provides a proficiency score at the end.

Combat ID won the 2012 People’s Choice Award at the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge held at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, & Education Conference in Orlando.

Civilian applications

Modeling and simulation isn’t just for the military. To help London prepare for the 2012 Olympics, AEgis developed an accurate 3D representation of the city using 300 individual models spanning 2,600 sq km. This allowed planners to select the best sites for the various sporting venues.

In 2011, AEgis delivered a simulation trainer to the Huntsville, Alabama police department to help bomb squad officers learn to operate their remotely piloted bomb disposal robot (the Remotec Andros F6A). Using a simulator increases training time while reducing wear and tear on equipment.

AEgis is also active in the nanotechnology field. Its Nanogenesis branch won the 2011 DARPA SBIR Phase II Solar Energy Award for developing high-efficiency, thin-film photovoltaic cells. The new solar cells are designed to convert light from a wider spectrum than previous cells, making them able to generate more power per unit area.

Technology designed to simulate the real world for training and planning purposes is cost-effective and widespread. Militaries, municipalities, corporations, and scientists all benefit from a platform that allows for experimentation often not possible using the real thing, and at a fraction of the cost.

Written By

USAF veteran who now lives in the Colorado Rockies.

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